Advance Directives

Advanced Directives are a patient's legal documents for their medical preferences in the event the patient should become incapable of voicing his/her opinions.

They are used to tell the doctors and family what kind of medical treatment the patient wants if they are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions.

Patients have the right to decide about their own medical care, and these documents are very important in protecting their medical wishes. If you currently do not have one, certain members of your family will have to decide on your care.

Stating Your Wishes Regarding Medical Treatment

Many people today are worried about the medical care they would be given should they become terminally ill and unable to communicate. They may not want to spend months or years dependent on life-support machines, or they may want every measure to be taken to sustain their life.

A growing number of people are taking action before they become seriously ill. You may now state your health care preferences in writing, while you are still healthy and able to make such decisions.

Under federal law, this health care organization is required to provide you, the patient, an explanation of your rights under Ohio law to make personal decisions regarding your own medical care. We are also required to ask you whether you have written down your wishes.

The information contained on these pages explains your options concerning the right to accept or refuse medical treatment and how you may make your wishes known about the care you want when you are unable to decide for yourself. It is not legal advice, but it serves as general and useful information designed to help you understand your rights under the law.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Who should I choose to make all my health care decisions for me when I am unable to?

You can choose any adult relative or friend you trust to speak for you when you're unable to make your own decisions. Be sure to talk with that person about what you want. Then write down what you want or don't want on your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Form. You should also talk to your doctor about what you want.

When does my Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare take effect?

This document becomes effective only when you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions about your treatment.

Download Health Care Power of Attorney

Living Will

What is the basic difference between a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Living Will?

Your Living Will is your set of written instructions about the type of health care treatment you want when you are unable to communicate your wishes. Your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to choose a person to make your health care treatment decisions for you when you are unable to do so yourself.

If I have a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, do I need a Living Will too?

Many people will want to have both documents because they can address different aspects of your medical care. A Living Will gives your instructions directly to your doctors and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare appoints another person you have chosen to make health care treatment decisions for you.

How does a Living Will work?

It becomes effective only when you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate. It spells out to what extent you want life-support technology used to prolong your life. It gives your caregivers the authority to follow your instructions regarding the medical treatment you want under these conditions.

Download Living Will Information

Other Matters to Consider

If I don't have a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, who makes my health care decisions when I'm terminally ill and unable to communicate or in a permanently unconscious state?

Ohio law now recognizes an Order of Decision Makers when you are no longer able to make health care decisions for yourself. This Order of Decision Makers is very similar to the current legally recognized next-of-kin priority order. The law allows next-of-kin:

  • To make all your health care decisions if you are terminally ill and unable to communicate.
  • To make decisions for the withdrawal of life support if you are in a permanently unconscious state only after a 12-month waiting period. However, this doesn't include the withdrawal of artificially supplied nutrition and hydration (food and water) except as explained below.

What about the withholding of artificially supplied food and water?

The issue of whether you can authorize the withholding of artificially supplied food and water (internal feeding and fluid tubes) depends on your medical condition.

  • If you are terminally ill and unable to communicate, and if your Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare simply states that you don't want life-support technology used to prolong your life, then artificially supplied food and water can be withheld.
  • If you are in a permanently unconscious state, artificially supplied food and water may be withheld only if you have written specific instructions about artificially supplied food and water in your Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
  • If you don't have either of these forms, Ohio law allows your next-of-kin to authorize the withholding of artificially supplied food and water when you are terminally ill and unable to communicate. If you are in a permanently unconscious state, your next-of-kin can make these decisions for you only after a 12-month waiting period and approval from a Probate Court.

By filling out these forms, am I participating in euthanasia or assisted suicide?

No. Ohio law does not allow or condone euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Can I make changes to my forms?

Yes, at any time. In fact, if you already have a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, it may be recognized under state law only if the document is substantially in compliance with Ohio's law, which took effect on October 10, 1991. Ohio law didn't formally recognize living wills until this date. It is always a good idea to periodically review your forms to be sure they still reflect your views, and your old forms may not cover specific areas.

Where do I get Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare forms?

Many hospitals and health care provider organizations will make these forms available upon request.
To download and print a copy of either from, click on the link in the box at the top of this page.

What do I do with these forms after filling them out?

You should give copies to your doctor and health care facility to put into your medical record. Be sure and tell your family or friends (persons close to you) about what you have done and consider giving them a copy as well. Do not simply put these documents in a safe place and forget about them.

Download our Complete Ohio Advance Directives Packet

Download PDF